Lawsuit addresses county costs of opioid epidemic


Laurens County is asked to join opioid lawsuit


Criminal negligence, or “bad choice”? That’s the differing points of view related to opioid addiction expressed at the May 8 Laurens County Council meeting.

Spartanburg attorney John B. White Jr. said Big Pharma should have to pay Laurens County and others for the spike in local services rendered to people who cannot kick painkillers.

Council Vice-chairman Keith Tollison said “no,” it’s a matter of a person’s “bad choices.”

White has several Upstate counties as clients, and is making pitches to several more to form a coalition to go against drug-making companies that, he said, knew opioid painkillers are addictive, and undersold the risk. Doctors promoted use of the pain killers, based on this undersold risk and what White said was a lot of money changing hands. Unless Big Pharma has to fight lawsuits in local courts - not federal court in Ohio - the companies will keep on making, selling, and profiting from opioids.

Meanwhile White, managing shareholder of the Harrison White PC law firm, said that local jails are filling up, hospital emergency rooms are taxed to their limits, work productivity suffers, and families are in anguish. Problem is, opioids stop working on pain, and people have to inject heroin to get the same relief, White said, and Big Pharma knew before it sold the drugs that this would happen.

“This is a matter of ethics,” White said. “This drug changes the brain’s behavior.”

“These are bad decisions,” Tollison said. “I had family members involved. We all choose to take this pill, or that pill. I know this epidemic is coming our way.”

Tollison questioned how White came to the Laurens County Council. White said he asked County Attorney Sandy Cruickshanks about making a presentation, and was granted a spot on the May 8 agenda. “I am grateful for that,” White said.

Council took no action on White’s presentation.

“I lost a family member to opioids,” Council Chairman Joe Wood said.

“I think it (suing Big Pharma in state court) will curb the activity. It will put the burden on the people who caused the problem, not on the taxpayers,” White said. “The money needs to come to your county, not to the state government.”

White already has filed an opioid-related lawsuit in Greenville County. In a separate matter, opioids are a topic also being addressed by Congress.

Third District Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-Laurens) issued this statement about opioid measures reported out by the House Energy & Commerce Committee:  

“This is an all hands on deck situation that requires a response not only on federal, state, and local levels, but also on the doctor-patient level. I have talked to too many families who have been impacted by the scourge of the opioid crisis, and I am thankful that Congress has been able to produce some bipartisan solutions to start addressing these problems.

“While we are working to tackle these complex problem domestically, the problem doesn’t stop here at home. Many of the drugs that are devastating families across the country are illegally flowing across our southern border, which is why we must support the Trump Administration’s plans to step up border security and enforcement.

“We have a long way to go to address this multifaceted and devastating epidemic, but the bills the committee passed today are a constructive start.”

Descriptions of the 25 bills reported out by the committee are in an article under Opinions at


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